« PreviousContinue »
us. But I defend not this innovation, it is enough if I can excuse it. For, to speak sincerely, the manners of nations and ages are not to be confounded; we should either make them English, or leave them Roman. If this can neither be defended nor excused, let it be pardoned at least, because it is acknowledged; and so much the more easily, as being a fault which is never committed without some pleasure to the reader.
Thus, my lord, having troubled you with a tedious visit, the best manners will be shewn in the least ceremony. I will slip away while your back is turned, and while you are otherwise employed; with great confusion for having entertained you so long with this discourse, and for having no other recompence to make you, than the worthy labours of my fellow-undertakers in this work, and the thankful acknowledgments, prayers, and perpetual good wishes, of,
And most obedient servant,
Aug. 18, 1692.
The Poet gives us first a kind of humorous reason for his writing : that
being provoked by hearing so many ill poets rehearse their works, he does himself justice on them, by giving them as bad as they bring. But since no man will rank himself with ill writers, it is easy to conclude, that if such wretches could draw an audience, he thought it no hard matter to ercel them, and gain a greater esteem with the public. Next, he informs us more openly, why he rather addicts himself to satire than any other kind of poetry. And here he discoders, that it is not so much his indignution to ill poets as to ill men, which has prompted him to write. He, therefore, gives us a sunmary and general view of the vices and follies reigning in his time, So that this first satire is the natural ground-work of all the rest. Herein he confines himself to no one subject, but strikes indifferently at all men in his way: in every following satire he has chosen some particular moral which he would inculcate ; and lashes some particular vice or folly, (an art with which our lampooners are not much acquainted). But our poet being desirous to reform his own age, and not daring to attempt it by an overt-act of naming living persons, inveighs only against those who were infamous in the times immediately preceding his, whereby he not only gives a fair warning to great men, that their memory lies at the merey of future poets and historians, but also, with a finer stroke of his pen, brands
even the living, and personates them under dead men's names. I have avoided, as much as I could possibly, the borrowed learning of
marginal notes and illustrations, and for that reason have translated this satire somewhat largely; and freely own, (if it be a fault,) that I have likewise omitted most of the proper names, because I thought they would not much edify the reader. To conclude, if in two or three places I have deserted all the commentators, it is because I thought they first deserted ny author, or at least have left him in so much obscurity, that too much room is left for guessing.
Srill shall I hear, and never quit the score,
* Codrus, or it may be Cordus, a bad poet, who wrote the life and actions of Theseus.—[This and almost all the following notes are taken from Dryden's first edition. Those which are supplied by the present Editor, are distinguished by the letter E.]
+ The name of a tragedy. | Another tragedy.
§ Some commentators take this grove to be a place where poets were used to repeat their works to the people; but more probably, both this and Vulcan's grott, or cave, and the rest of the places and names here mentioned, are only meant for the common places of Homer in his Iliads and Odyssies.
The best and worst * on the same theme employs
Provoked by these incorrigible fools,
But why I lift aloft the satire's rod,
* That is, the best and the worst poets.
+ This was one of the themes given in the schools of rhetoricians, in the deliberative kind; whether Sylla should lay down the supreme power of dictatorship, or still keep it?
| Lucilius, the first satirist of the Romans, who wrote long before Horace.
s Mævia, a name put for any impudent or mannish woman. ii Juvenal's barber, now grown wealthy.
Crispinus, an Egyptian slave; now, by his riches, transformed into a nobleman.
** The Romans were grown so effeminate in Juvenal's time, that tbey wore light rings in the summer, and heavier in the winter.
Such fulsome objects meeting every where, 'Tis hard to write, but harder to forbear.
To view so lewd a town, and to refrain, What hoops of iron could my spleen contain ! When pleading Matho, borne abroad for air, * With his fat paunch fills his new-fashioned chair, And after him the wretch in pomp conveyed, Whose evidence his lord and friend betrayed, And but the wished occasion does attend From the poor nobles the last spoils to rend, Whom even spies dread as their superior fiend, And bribe with presents; or, when presents fail, They send their prostituted wives for bail: When night-performance holds the place of merit, And brawn and back the next of kin disherit; (For such good parts are in preferment's way,) The rich old madam never fails to pay Her legacies, by nature's standard given, One gains an ounce, another gains eleven: A dear-bought bargain, all things duly weighed, For which their thrice concocted blood is paid. With looks as wan, as he who in the brake At unawares has trod upon a snake; Or played at Lyons a declaiming prize, For which the vanquished rhetorician dies. +
What indignation boils within my veins, When perjured guardians, proud with impious
gains, Choke up the streets, too narrow for their trains ! Whose wards, by want betrayed, to crimes are led Too foul to name, too fulsome to be read!
* Matho, a famous lawyer, mentioned in other places by Juve. nal and Martial.
+ Lyons, a city in France, where annual sacrifices and games were made in honour of Augustus Cæsar.